The 2018 season was especially important to the batch of players set to hit free-agency this coming off-season. There were seven breakout players in contract years who are set to cash-in this free agency.
As the ball dropped and we entered 2019, 20 NFL franchises officially turned the page on the 2018 season and began focusing on next season. The first major way to improve a roster will come in March as the unrestricted free-agent period begins.
While stars like Le’Veon Bell, Earl Thomas, and Demarcus Lawrence are sure to cash-in, there were seven under-the-radar breakouts this season that can help define an off-season for their potential suitors. Each of these players is either coming off a cheap deal, or their initial rookie contract.
Whether it be a breakout due to an increased role, the sharpening of skill, or a total transformation, these seven playmakers have undoubtedly helped their future earnings with their contract-year performances.
We’ll dive into each and explain their performance, as well as name some potential suitors and the expected salary range should they hit the free market.
1. Frank Clark, DE, Seattle Seahawks
One of the most gifted, yet least-talked about pass rushers in the league is Frank Clark. The 25-year-old stepped into a full-time role in 2018 as the Seattle Seahawks revamped their defense on-the-fly. He responded with a dominant 14-sack season in his contract year.
Clark’s tallied 36 career sacks in his four seasons, meaning he’s primed to earn a huge payday.
The 6’3″, 265-pound end plays with a blend of great strength, leverage, and has enough speed to challenge tackles around the corner. He’s also a threat on stunts and as an inside rusher on third downs, where his powerful hands work wonders against interior blockers.
The only negative on Clark is a big one, though it remains to be seen how it’s held against him. He was involved in an especially ugly domestic violence charge that was later reduced. Some teams will have no interest in him despite being over three years removed from it.
It’s unlikely the Seahawks allow Clark to hit the open market considering their cap room, need, and his value. Expect Clark to receive a deal similar to or exceeding Chandler Jones’ $16.5 million-per-year deal.
Potential suitors: Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions